Contemporary Authors Say Literature Had A Hand In Recent Uprisings

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter may get most of the credit for fueling the recent uprisings in the Middle East and Africa, but a group of authors is making the case that contemporary literature also has a hand in creating change in the region.

Three authors are appearing at the 92nd Street Y on Monday to discuss ways that the region’s prose and poetry has helped set the stage for revolution. 

Panelist Reza Aslan is the editor of a new anthology of Middle Eastern and Arab writers. He says that fiction writers and poets have always done the important work of challenging authority. For proof, he says, just look at the rates at which authors are imprisoned and punished.

“Literature has always been a way to confront society’s ills," says Aslan. "And the poets and writers of the region have served as historians and journalists."

He adds that in the West, literature is more removed from the world of politics, which is not the case everywhere: “Unfortunately, in Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia and Iran where political participation is greatly limited, the arts become a primary mode through which those kinds of political aspirations can be expressed.”

Aslan is appearing at the 92nd Street Y along with Azar Nafisi, author of the bestseller “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and Nathan Englander, who wrote “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges”.